Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki - Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration
The Cook Islands last week hosted a visiting 13 person delegation comprised officials from various United Nations (UN) organisations to review the UN’s program of assistance to the Cook Islands and agree future co-operation priorities.
The delegation included officials from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Labor Organization (ILO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), World Health Organization (WHO), and the Office of United Nations Resident Coordinator who met with a range of representatives from Cook Islands government, private sector and civil society.
The visit was coordinated by Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki - Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) with engagements including a series of bilateral and one on one interactions, and workshops involving a technical review of the United Nations Pacific Strategy (UNPS) 2018-2022.
The UN currently delivers support to the Cook Islands through the UNPS, across 6 different focus areas aligned with the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Plan – Te Kaveinga Nui. These include 1. Climate Change, Disaster Resilience and Environmental Protection, 2. Gender Equality, 3. Sustainable and Inclusive Economic Empowerment, 4. Equitable Basic Services in Health and Education, 5. Governance and Community Engagement, and 6. Human Rights.
In 2018, delivered through the UNPS, Cook Islands assistance from the UN was valued at US$8 million, and in 2019 over US$4 million dollars – with most of these going to support development outcomes in the areas of climate change, disaster resilience and environmental protection.
The visiting UN team was led by UNDP Resident Representative Jorn Sorrenson, in his capacity as the Acting UN Resident Coordinator. Mr Sorrenson and Klem Ryan, Head of the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator met with Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann to discuss current and future Cook Islands-UN co-operation, including implications of the Cook Islands graduation to High Level income country as determined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The Cook Islands is a member of most of the 15 specialized UN agencies (including FAO, ICAO, the ILO, UNESCO, IMO and WHO) as well as principal UN Funds and Programmes (including UNDP, UNEP, UNFPA and UNICEF) and has both rights and responsibilities emanating from that membership, including annual financial contributions. “The timing of this visit, during the cyclone season was to avail the delegation an appreciation of the climate vulnerabilities confronting the Cook Islands,” said Secretary Herrmann. “The visit was an opportunity to discuss the Cook Islands return on investment as a member of the UN and explore how and where we might focus our limited resources in future engagements with the UN,” said Secretary Herrmann.
Of particular interest to the Cook Islands is re-establishment by the UN of an on the ground Joint Presence Office in Rarotonga, within the year, and ensuring possible future UN support to the Cook Islands is assessed against the UN developed Small Islands Development State (SIDS) criteria, see http://unohrlls.org/about-sids/ and not any other measure, including that developed by the OECD which determined the Cook Islands graduation to high level income country.
Bilateral discussions also extended to strategic partnerships and shared resources, within the Framework for Pacific regionalism. “The reality is countries, including the Cook Islands, are competing with regional and multilateral organisations (like the UN) for limited development finance. Our message to the UN delegation was a preference such development assistance is delivered directly to the Cook Islands. Where bilateral delivery is not possible, priority is given to delivery through existing Pacific regional organizations where appropriate, recognising in some areas, international entities are the only option, including in a number of areas in which UN organisations already support the Cook Islands development agenda,” said Secretary Herrmann.
Discussions between MFAI and the UN Resident Coordinators Office based in Samoa will continue over the next couple of weeks to finalise the Cook Islands forward program of co-operation with the UN through to 2022, as well as broader considerations for co-operation beyond 2022.
Queries regarding this release can be directed to Siai.Taylor@cookislands.gov.ck
1: Participants at the workshop to review the UNPS 2018-2022
2: L – R: Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann, Jorn Sorrenson, UNDP Resident Representative, Samoa, Klem Ryan, Head of the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator and Josh Mitchell, UN, Treaties and Oceans Director, MFAI
3 L-R Josh Mitchell, Tepaeru Herrmann, Jorn Sorrenson, Klem Ryan and Siai Taylor, Foreign Service Officer, MFAI